The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Pros & Cons of Progress

Author - John & Jean Broadbent

It's an ill wind that brings no good... when hostilities in Iraq caused our trip to Djibouti to be cancelled it simply meant we had an extra week in Ethiopia. We decided to spend it around Lake Tana where we had not visited since our very first trip to Ethiopia back in 1997.

Bahir Dar was bustling with activity, many students around and lots of footballers for a regional competition. It was good to see ladies' teams participating and being very well supported.

Tourists were very few indeed. In fact the Tana hotel was deserted when we called in to seek the giant kingfisher our guide Sololmon Berhe promised would be there - indeed it was!

We were staying at the Ghion Hotel which by comparison was full of local businessmen and a number of aid workers from France and Scandinavia. The former were involved in measuring the moisture content of air samples taken from just above the lake's surface every fifteen minutes to try and assess the rate of evaporation from the lake. This is causing concern as, with an increase in local average temperatures due to climate change, the water loss due to evaporation could have a huge impact along the course of the Blue Nile.

Tsisisat Falls - February 1997

Naturally we wished to re-visit Tsisisat Falls and it was here that we had our greatest surprise of the trip. The photographs show (left) the scene we marvelled at back in February 1997 and the scene (below) we could not believe we were seeing in March 2003. Even allowing for the time of year we were shocked by how little water there was. In fact what has happened is not a climatic catastrophe but technical progress - a new hydro-electric power station has been built nearby and 75% of the water flow has been diverted to it. Sadly for the tourist spectacle the diversion is above the falls which are greatly diminished as a result.

Tsisisat Falls - March 2003

We were informed that the electricity generated is traded with Sudan for oil and gas which Ethiopia needs of course. It has to be said however, that this example of progress must have a significantly adverse effect on tourism in this area.

In contrast we also visited, later in our journey, the new development at Bishangari on Lake Langano. Again this was a then and now experience. When we visited the camp site in 1999 it was derelict and abandoned. A good idea thwarted by problems over land rights and investment.

Fortunately the scheme was revived and there is now a superb eco-friendly luxury tented camp here. Sadly we were only there for one night, and had the place to ourselves as we enjoyed relaxing in the tree house lounge or explored the lake shore and the magnificent forest area just behind the camp. Again we were looking for a bird we had seen only there four years before and in almost exactly the same place we found the unusual green twinspot (Mandingoa nitidula) again. Our evening meal was delicious but it is undoubtedly the peaceful location which made this a most memorable and satisfying way to spend $138 a night - they've got to pay for the Selamta advert somehow!!


John and Jean Broadbent have indicated in their article some reasons for the changes at Tsisisat Falls. But others may also be linked to irrigation schemes, whose development are long overdue around Lake Tana; low rainfall for the past 3 years may also be another contributory factor. It would be interesting to hear from other members about their experiences and views.

Jean Bailey

Several members have, I am sure, been visiting Ethiopia over very extended periods (or have been living there) so please join in, and send your views.

Anne Parsons

First Published in News File Winter 2003

Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of the Society.
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